The collection includes c1,000 musical instruments from the late 15th to the mid-20th century. Among them is the earliest dated guitar (Belchior Dias, Lisbon, 1581), the earliest known stringed keyboard instrument (clavicytherium, Ulm, c1480), a harpsichord by Alessandro Trasuntino (Venice, 1531) and a remarkable collection of English viols (John Rose, c1590, Henry Jaye, 1619, Richard Meares c1680, and Barak Norman 1692 and 1694).
Several of our instruments are maintained in playing condition and can be heard at concerts or as part of our research and dissemination activities.
Our musical instrument collection can be explored through the following digital resources.
Printed instrument catalogues
Printed versions of our catalogues and publication can be purchased through the RCM shop. All catalogues are also freely accessible online.
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The RCM has an internationally significant collection of more than 130 paintings celebrating music, musicians and patrons of music, spanning between the 16th and the 21st century.
Notable portraits include the earliest official portrait of the famous castrato singer Carlo Broschi ‘Farinelli’, the best known portraits of Joseph Haydn, Johann Peter Solomon, William Boyce and William Shield, as well as of many of the famous musicians who studied or taught at the College (Ralph Vaughan Williams, Charles Villiers Stanford, Herbert Howells to name a few).
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The RCM supports individual research by staff, students and external researchers whose work focusses on items in our collections or in related cultural areas.